Published May 01, 2013Simon Green, the man behind Bonobo — a long-time staple of the Ninja Tune catalogue — simply said a hello to Vancouver as he started into the thumb-piano driven "Cirrus" from his newly released album The North Borders. With Green standing behind a laptop and midi controllers, he was quickly joined by drummer Jack Baker, multi-instrumentalist Mike Lesirge, and Johnny Tomlinson on keys. As the track took off, so did the sold-out crowd, as it started chain-smoking joints. Green would later refer to it as the best crowd he ever smelled.
From "Cirrus," the group shifted fluidly into "Sapphire" as Lesirge moved from a second laptop to clarinet. Then, as Szjerdene and guitarist Ewan Wallace took the stage, they started into "Towers," on which Szjerdene sang for the studio album. Szjerdene was a vision in a short cut, sequin dress that accentuated her long arms and fingers as they fluttered like a coy bird whenever she wasn't singing. A few years back, when Bonobo was touring in support of 2010's Black Sands, they'd brought Andreya Triana along with them to the Commodore. Szjerdene has some chops, no doubt, but when they performed the Triana original "Stay the Same," it became apparent that Szjerdene wasn't raising the bar set by her predecessor.
Still, for "electronic" music, this was quite a set, perfectly paced with no awkward moments. The transitions were seamless, tracks often bleeding into the next, and the instrumentation was constantly changing. Furthermore to the laptop and clarinet, Lesirge added saxophone and a bit of flute. Green picked up a bass guitar for several numbers, and, for "Nitelight," Wallace broke out an acoustic guitar, with Szjerdene appearing intermittently. About 20 minutes into the set, the whole band left for a medley of tracks tweaked MPC-style by a solo Green. This medley included a sick variation on "Ten Tigers" that accentuated the track's hip-hop leanings before dropping a devastating bass line, and a punchy take on "Kong."
Yet, arguably the most impressive musical display came when everyone evacuated post-"El Toro" save Lesirge and Baker. Baker let loose a drum solo so vigorous, it could have started a fire, followed by a swanky, layered sax solo by Lesirge that would make the Sexy Sax Man, Sergio Flores, goo himself. This gave way to a kind of drum and processed sax dubstep that was main stage massive. This is where Colin Stetson should be heading.